Happy couple talking on balcony.

Take into account your budget, travel style and desired amenities before selecting your accommodations across the pond. (Getty Images)

Planning a trip to Europe can be overwhelming, especially if you want to visit multiple countries. And when it comes to booking accommodations, whether you're interested in staying in a hotel or a rental, making the right choice is imperative, as your vacation lodgings will determine where you rest and relax, as well as your proximity to top attractions and activities.

[See: How to Visit Expensive European Cities on a Budget.]

According to HomeAway, which offers more than 2 million vacation rentals around the world, demand for vacation home rentals is up this summer in major cities such as London, Rome and Paris, each up at least 50 percent or more in bookings. Still, there are many components that factor into the lodging decision-making process, from available amenities to pricing. If you're contemplating an alternative accommodation option, here's a primer on the pros and cons of vacation rentals and hotels to help you narrow down your options.

If You Want to Live Like a Local, Opt for a Vacation Rental

While hotels across Europe may offer all the comforts of home, staying in an apartment or vacation rental in your destination can offer travelers a more authentic and hyper-local experience. "Home rentals are the perfect way to feel connected to a community, you can live as though you are a resident, not a tourist, and get much better insight into the local area," says Nichola West of GlobalMouseTravels.com, who lives in Bath, England, and has stayed in a number of vacation rentals with her family of five.

Plus, many apartments come with kitchens, allowing visitors to prepare meals at home and interact with locals while shopping at vibrant area markets for goods and, as a result, meet the locals and begin to understand how they live daily life. "We love visiting supermarkets overseas, farmers markets and public transport, and it's the best way to meet local people – all of which you're much more likely to do if you're in an apartment rather than a hotel, which can have everything you need included," West says.

If Your Prioritize the Comforts of Home, Book a Hotel Room

While rental apartments may provide a more authentic stay, they can also require a bit more work on the part of the guest. Some cleanup is expected versus housekeeping services and some conveniences might not be available. For example, you can't call the front desk to find the nearest pharmacy or get a recommendation from the hotel concierge for dining options based on your location.

If you're visiting somewhere for the first time, hotels can also offer an added sense of safety and comfort, and provide amenities and preferred and familiar cuisine options. "Hotels are the right choice for the risk-averse [traveler] or when you really need concierge service," says Julia Slatcher of Inspire World Travel, who has stayed in more than 20 vacation rentals throughout Europe with her family.

In many European countries, for example, breakfast is skimpy and light with no eggs in sight, but at a hotel that caters to Americans, you are more likely to find a full American-style breakfast, as well as have access to knowledgeable and attentive hotel staff who can direct you to top points of interest in the destination you are visiting.

At the Hotel Indigo Paris Opera in Paris, for example, employees are on hand to assist with everything from the nearest laundry service options to recommendations for getting in a shorter line to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower.

[See: Where to Find the Best Hotel Concierges.]

If You Value Space, Pick a Rental

Vacation rentals may be more spacious than hotel rooms, which are notoriously small in Europe. This can be helpful for families, allowing parents and children to each have their own rooms. Many vacation rentals also offer added features such as washing machines and dryers to help keep clothes clean on longer trips. West says she's even come across child-friendly options such as baskets of books, toys, as well as bikes and scooters that are available to use, making vacation rentals an ideal choice for those traveling with youngsters in tow.

Factor in the Check-In Process

Check-in at a hotel is also typically a quicker, easier process than a vacation rental. If you just want to get to your accommodations and crash, a hotel may be the best choice.

With vacation rentals, you may need to coordinate with the host who meets you at the property, though sometimes interactions with the host are priceless, Slatcher says. "Interaction with local hosts can add a really special element, like our Croatian host who told us moving stories from the war," she explains.

Other vacation rentals may have lockboxes that hold the keys with a combination provided. Additionally, they typically come with physical keys versus digital or plastic keys at hotels, making keeping track of your key essential. Losing the physical keys can cost you a pretty penny to replace, and present a major hassle in a foreign country.

Compare Costs to Determine the Lodging Pick That's Best for Your Budget

While you will need to put in extra legwork and conduct plenty of research, it is often possible to find vacation rentals that are cheaper than hotels and are filled with local character and charm. In fact, Melanie Fish, HomeAway's family travel expert, says vacation home rentals provide about twice the space for half the cost per person compared to a hotel room.

For example, HomeAway lists an apartment in Tuscany's medieval San Gimignano town that dates to the 12th century, sits on one of the main piazzas, offers picturesque views of the Tuscan countryside and even includes a fun loft area ideal for kids. The apartment also boasts two bathrooms, a full kitchen, dining room, living room and two bedrooms in addition to the loft for only about $260 per night. HomeAway also has multiple European castles where guests can stay the night.

Additionally, choosing a larger, more expensive vacation rental can be a good value when traveling with a larger group of people compared with paying for multiple hotel rooms. Vacation rentals often charge a cleaning fee, however, as well as require a deposit, so those additional costs should be considered.

Slatcher says they have been able to find rentals with amenities that may cost a lot more at a hotel, including balconies, pools and parking. "When you also calculate the savings of not paying for parking, not paying resort fees and not eating out every meal, the value of a HomeAway [property] is exceptional," Fish says.

Consider Payment and Deposits

Paying for vacation rentals is more complicated than going online and booking a room with your credit card. Owners typically require you to fill out a rental agreement, provide a deposit, and upon check-in at places in Italy, provide your passport (per government regulations).

[See: 12 Great Destinations in Europe You Can Afford.]

With companies like HomeAway, you can choose to pay through their systems, to ensure you submit your payment information securely. HomeAway also offers a Book with Confidence Guarantee when booking through their systems that protects your payments and deposits against fraud, phishing and improper representation of a property and assists with rebooking should your rental be canceled.


10 Outrageous Fees Every Traveler Should Know About


Photo Gallery
Compass, passport, money and old map.
A woman talking on the phone.
Suitcase on luggage conveyor belt in the baggage claim at airport.
Woman swiping credit card through credit card reader
Jettison your fear of flying in time for summer travels
A woman makes travel arrangements with a laptop.
Sunset onboard a cruise ship cabin.
Businesswoman with laptop and phone in hotel room.
Young Business Man Using Graphics Tablet On Plane
Meal in the airplane.
Closeup typing
|

Learn how to dodge added, often unanticipated fees.
These days, practically every major travel company is tacking on extra charges. Beyond getting squeezed with expensive fares and room rates, travelers are facing a flurry of costly add-ons, including booking, Wi-Fi and priority seating fees. And despite the rising frustration among globetrotters, many major hotels, airlines and cruise lines have found new ways to raise prices and charge travelers for perks and privileges that were once complimentary – even aisle and window seats. Still, there is a silver lining: If you know the fees to watch out for, you can dodge them or at least slash costs. With this in mind, here are 10 irksome fees to avoid on your next trip.
(Getty Images)

Charges for booking on the phone or in person
"While you can call the airlines for free, if you book while on the phone, you may be charged a fee that ranges from $10 to $25," says Gabe Saglie, senior editor at Travelzoo. For example, Alaska Airlines imposes a $15 fee for using its call center, and JetBlue Airways charges $25 for purchasing tickets by phone or at ticket counters at domestic airports. To avoid this fee, make your reservations online, Saglie says. Christine Sarkis, senior editor at Smarter Travel, advises: "Even if you need to call for advice, don't book the actual flight over the phone. Hang up and book online instead."
(Getty Images)

Carry-on and checked baggage fees
"Some airlines charge a fee for a second carry-on bag. Add these extra costs when calculating your price comparisons between airlines," Saglie says. If you must take a second piece of carry-on luggage, Saglie suggests prepurchasing, which can "save you up to $65 compared to paying at the gate," he adds. According to a May report released by the Department of Transportation, the top 25 U.S. carriers raked in $3.8 billion for baggage fees in 2015. American Airlines, for example, imposes a $25 fee for the first checked bag and a $35 fee for the second checked bag, while JetBlue imposes a $20 checked bag fee online for basic fares ($25 at the gate) and a $35 fee for an additional checked bag. Before you go, Saglie advises weighing your luggage and consulting the carrier's website to learn about the maximum luggage dimensions to avoid an unanticipated fee.
(Getty Images)

Foreign transaction fees
"If you still have a credit card that charges you foreign transaction fees on purchases abroad, you should seriously consider ditching it," Sarkis says. "An increasing number of credit cards geared to travelers, including a lot of airline credit cards, have dropped the fee, so there's little reason to keep a card that's going to charge you an extra 3 percent on every purchase you make internationally." For example, the Citi Prestige and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard impose no foreign transaction fees.
(Getty Images)

Seat selection fees
"Many airlines charge you to select your seat before your flight," Saglie says. So, if you prefer a window seat or want to sit next to your travel companions, "you can be charged anywhere from $10 to $60 in the main cabin," he explains. The best way to avoid this fee: Arrive early. Although you'll be at the gate agent's mercy to change your seat for free, you'll optimize your chances of sitting with your companions, Saglie adds. Virgin Atlantic imposes a $40 fee for choosing your seat more than 24 hours prior to your flight, and Frontier imposes a seat selection fee starting at $6. And while some carriers do not charge for seat selection, there are some caveats. Southwest, for instance, does not have a seat selection fee, but its open-seating policy doesn’t guarantee that you'll get your preferred seat. According to Jeff Klee, CEO of CheapAir.com, if you book your tickets early enough, you can usually find a limited number of free seats available. Still, Klee cautions that securing seats depends on a variety of factors, and "you have to rely on a bit of luck and willingness on your part to pay a bit more."
(Getty Images)

Cancellation and change fees
"These [cancellation] fees can be astronomical, so whenever possible, don't book until you're sure you can go," Saglie says. There are some exceptions to this guideline, since federal law allows consumers to change or refund their ticket within 24 hours of making a reservation as long as their departure date is at least seven days away. However, if you're booking outside of this window, it's much trickier to get reimbursed if you delay your trip, Saglie says. And though some carriers, including Southwest, waive change fees and allow you to cancel your trip or get a refund, many major airlines impose steep fees and same-day change charges. In fact, airlines charge anywhere from $200 for domestic flights to $500 for international trips to change tickets, depending on the carrier, price of the ticket and route selected.
(Getty Images)

Single supplement fees
For solo sojourners, there may be no fee more aggravating than the single supplement fee. With many cruise cabins and hotel rooms priced based on double occupancy, it's not uncommon for cruise lines, tour companies and vacation packages to tack on an additional fee for single guests. While some cruise lines impose single supplement fees that can be 100 percent of the total price, others, such as Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean, are introducing studios with waived or trimmed supplement fees to cater to soloists. Before you book, read the terms and conditions to ensure you're not paying twice your expected rate for a double occupancy cabin.
(Getty Images)

Resort fees
"Most [hotels] have a resort fee and other fees, such as paying for the phone in the room, even though most people do not use them any longer," says Tom Spagnola, senior vice president of supplier relations at CheapOair. Other perks, including parking and Wi-Fi access, are typically rolled into the associated hotel or resort fee, he adds. In 2015, consumers spent around $2.04 billion on resort fees, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association. The fees, which can range from $5 to $25 per night, can quickly add up to a steep final bill. Make sure to read the fine print before booking your stay to avoid spending more than you anticipated.
(Getty Images)

In-flight Wi-Fi and other perks
"Gone are the days when you can assume that the pillows and blankets on board are free," Saglie says, pointing out that some airlines charge $10 for such extras. "Buy the inflatable neck rests at your local dollar store before your flight and carry an extra-large scarf with you that can double as a blanket in a pinch." JetBlue, for example, charges $5 for headsets, $5 to $6 for a blanket and pillow and $5 for in-flight movies. Meanwhile, American Airlines charges $5 for earbuds in ecomony cabins on domestic flights, $2.50 to $50 for in-flight Wi-Fi use on domestic flights and $12 to $19 for Wi-Fi for international flights.
(Getty Images)

In-flight meal and beverage fees
Beyond in-air entertainment and Wi-Fi access, nowadays consumers are being charged for meals and soft drinks, among other amenities, marketed as a "bundled ancillary package," Spagnola says. Take Spirit Airlines, which charges $3 for a cold beverage and $4 for mixed nuts, but only $6 if you buy them together. Similarly, JetBlue charges $6 to $7 for meal boxes. To avoid paying for such add-ons, Saglie suggests bringing snacks whenever possible. "If your bags are too full to bring snacks from home, prepurchase snacks in the terminal. These will still be cheaper than on the flight itself," he says.
(Getty Images)

Processing fees for award tickets
Before you redeem your hard-earned flight or hotel stay, keep in mind that you may have to pay a steep fee to do so. "There is a much smaller online charge for booking your award tickets" versus calling the airline to have it issue the tickets, Spagnola says. Processing charges for award tickets vary by airline and membership status, so make sure to read the fine print carefully. Another way to dodge these fees is by enrolling with affiliated rewards credit cards, Sarkis says.
(psphotograph/Getty Stock Images)

Compass, passport, money and old map.
A woman talking on the phone.
Suitcase on luggage conveyor belt in the baggage claim at airport.
Woman swiping credit card through credit card reader
Jettison your fear of flying in time for summer travels
A woman makes travel arrangements with a laptop.
Sunset onboard a cruise ship cabin.
Businesswoman with laptop and phone in hotel room.
Young Business Man Using Graphics Tablet On Plane
Meal in the airplane.
Closeup typing

Learn how to dodge added, often unanticipated fees.
These days, practically every major travel company is tacking on extra charges. Beyond getting squeezed with expensive fares and room rates, travelers are facing a flurry of costly add-ons, including booking, Wi-Fi and priority seating fees. And despite the rising frustration among globetrotters, many major hotels, airlines and cruise lines have found new ways to raise prices and charge travelers for perks and privileges that were once complimentary – even aisle and window seats. Still, there is a silver lining: If you know the fees to watch out for, you can dodge them or at least slash costs. With this in mind, here are 10 irksome fees to avoid on your next trip.
(Getty Images)

Charges for booking on the phone or in person
"While you can call the airlines for free, if you book while on the phone, you may be charged a fee that ranges from $10 to $25," says Gabe Saglie, senior editor at Travelzoo. For example, Alaska Airlines imposes a $15 fee for using its call center, and JetBlue Airways charges $25 for purchasing tickets by phone or at ticket counters at domestic airports. To avoid this fee, make your reservations online, Saglie says. Christine Sarkis, senior editor at Smarter Travel, advises: "Even if you need to call for advice, don't book the actual flight over the phone. Hang up and book online instead."
(Getty Images)

Carry-on and checked baggage fees
"Some airlines charge a fee for a second carry-on bag. Add these extra costs when calculating your price comparisons between airlines," Saglie says. If you must take a second piece of carry-on luggage, Saglie suggests prepurchasing, which can "save you up to $65 compared to paying at the gate," he adds. According to a May report released by the Department of Transportation, the top 25 U.S. carriers raked in $3.8 billion for baggage fees in 2015. American Airlines, for example, imposes a $25 fee for the first checked bag and a $35 fee for the second checked bag, while JetBlue imposes a $20 checked bag fee online for basic fares ($25 at the gate) and a $35 fee for an additional checked bag. Before you go, Saglie advises weighing your luggage and consulting the carrier's website to learn about the maximum luggage dimensions to avoid an unanticipated fee.
(Getty Images)

Foreign transaction fees
"If you still have a credit card that charges you foreign transaction fees on purchases abroad, you should seriously consider ditching it," Sarkis says. "An increasing number of credit cards geared to travelers, including a lot of airline credit cards, have dropped the fee, so there's little reason to keep a card that's going to charge you an extra 3 percent on every purchase you make internationally." For example, the Citi Prestige and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard impose no foreign transaction fees.
(Getty Images)

Seat selection fees
"Many airlines charge you to select your seat before your flight," Saglie says. So, if you prefer a window seat or want to sit next to your travel companions, "you can be charged anywhere from $10 to $60 in the main cabin," he explains. The best way to avoid this fee: Arrive early. Although you'll be at the gate agent's mercy to change your seat for free, you'll optimize your chances of sitting with your companions, Saglie adds. Virgin Atlantic imposes a $40 fee for choosing your seat more than 24 hours prior to your flight, and Frontier imposes a seat selection fee starting at $6. And while some carriers do not charge for seat selection, there are some caveats. Southwest, for instance, does not have a seat selection fee, but its open-seating policy doesn’t guarantee that you'll get your preferred seat. According to Jeff Klee, CEO of CheapAir.com, if you book your tickets early enough, you can usually find a limited number of free seats available. Still, Klee cautions that securing seats depends on a variety of factors, and "you have to rely on a bit of luck and willingness on your part to pay a bit more."
(Getty Images)

Cancellation and change fees
"These [cancellation] fees can be astronomical, so whenever possible, don't book until you're sure you can go," Saglie says. There are some exceptions to this guideline, since federal law allows consumers to change or refund their ticket within 24 hours of making a reservation as long as their departure date is at least seven days away. However, if you're booking outside of this window, it's much trickier to get reimbursed if you delay your trip, Saglie says. And though some carriers, including Southwest, waive change fees and allow you to cancel your trip or get a refund, many major airlines impose steep fees and same-day change charges. In fact, airlines charge anywhere from $200 for domestic flights to $500 for international trips to change tickets, depending on the carrier, price of the ticket and route selected.
(Getty Images)

Single supplement fees
For solo sojourners, there may be no fee more aggravating than the single supplement fee. With many cruise cabins and hotel rooms priced based on double occupancy, it's not uncommon for cruise lines, tour companies and vacation packages to tack on an additional fee for single guests. While some cruise lines impose single supplement fees that can be 100 percent of the total price, others, such as Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean, are introducing studios with waived or trimmed supplement fees to cater to soloists. Before you book, read the terms and conditions to ensure you're not paying twice your expected rate for a double occupancy cabin.
(Getty Images)

Resort fees
"Most [hotels] have a resort fee and other fees, such as paying for the phone in the room, even though most people do not use them any longer," says Tom Spagnola, senior vice president of supplier relations at CheapOair. Other perks, including parking and Wi-Fi access, are typically rolled into the associated hotel or resort fee, he adds. In 2015, consumers spent around $2.04 billion on resort fees, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association. The fees, which can range from $5 to $25 per night, can quickly add up to a steep final bill. Make sure to read the fine print before booking your stay to avoid spending more than you anticipated.
(Getty Images)

In-flight Wi-Fi and other perks
"Gone are the days when you can assume that the pillows and blankets on board are free," Saglie says, pointing out that some airlines charge $10 for such extras. "Buy the inflatable neck rests at your local dollar store before your flight and carry an extra-large scarf with you that can double as a blanket in a pinch." JetBlue, for example, charges $5 for headsets, $5 to $6 for a blanket and pillow and $5 for in-flight movies. Meanwhile, American Airlines charges $5 for earbuds in ecomony cabins on domestic flights, $2.50 to $50 for in-flight Wi-Fi use on domestic flights and $12 to $19 for Wi-Fi for international flights.
(Getty Images)

In-flight meal and beverage fees
Beyond in-air entertainment and Wi-Fi access, nowadays consumers are being charged for meals and soft drinks, among other amenities, marketed as a "bundled ancillary package," Spagnola says. Take Spirit Airlines, which charges $3 for a cold beverage and $4 for mixed nuts, but only $6 if you buy them together. Similarly, JetBlue charges $6 to $7 for meal boxes. To avoid paying for such add-ons, Saglie suggests bringing snacks whenever possible. "If your bags are too full to bring snacks from home, prepurchase snacks in the terminal. These will still be cheaper than on the flight itself," he says.
(Getty Images)

Processing fees for award tickets
Before you redeem your hard-earned flight or hotel stay, keep in mind that you may have to pay a steep fee to do so. "There is a much smaller online charge for booking your award tickets" versus calling the airline to have it issue the tickets, Spagnola says. Processing charges for award tickets vary by airline and membership status, so make sure to read the fine print carefully. Another way to dodge these fees is by enrolling with affiliated rewards credit cards, Sarkis says.
(psphotograph/Getty Stock Images)

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Tags: travel, vacation rentals, vacations, Europe


Lyn Mettler is the hotels contributor to U.S. News and also writes about destinations, adventure travel and flying free using miles and points. She is the author of “The Step-by-Step Guide to Flying Free on Southwest” and blogs on the topic at GotoTravelGal.com. She is a longtime travel public relations professional and writer based in Indianapolis, whose articles have appeared in Executive Traveler, Private Air, Legion magazine, the National Catholic Register, MSN and other outlets. She and her family enjoy exploring the U.S. on active trips and her favorite destinations include the Rocky Mountains, Chicago, Orlando and California. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram at @GotoTravelGal.

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